Save our stag beetles: make your garden a stag beetle sanctuary

Mid to late May marks the time of year when stag beetles (Lucanus cervus) are likely to be seen, as warmer evenings draw them above ground to find a mate and reproduce. However, despite being Britain’s largest land beetle, they are also one of Britain’s rarer beetles. Now, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is offering advice as to how gardeners can help make their green spaces a haven for stag beetles, to help reverse the decline of this iconic insect.

Stag beetles can reach up to 75mm in size, which makes them second largest of all UK beetles (after the great diving beetle), but also easy to spot! Typically, stag beetles live in Britain’s gardens, parks, woodland edges and traditional orchards, and are prevalent throughout southern England. However, they are less common in the north of England and, due to the chalky soil, they are absent from the South Downs. PTES is keen to receive records from counties that border the stag beetles’ known range, including Devon, Norfolk, Worcestershire and Yorkshire.

Stag beetle by Bill Plumb

Save our stag beetles: top tips for gardeners

Create a log pile One of the major problems facing stag beetles is a lack of rotting wood to lay eggs in or near, and for larvae to feed on. By creating a log pile (or a log pyramid, if you fancy a challenge!), you can provide stag beetles with habitat for the future. Log piles are also great habitat for other invertebrates and they in turn provide food for hedgehogs and birds.
Leave dead wood in your garden Leave old stumps and dead wood alone, as these provide the perfect habitat and also a food supply. If you want to make the stumps more attractive – try growing a climbing plant such as clematis up it.
Reduce dangers: Be vigilant when mowing your lawn and be alert for predators; try and scare away magpies and keep your own pets indoors during warm evenings when stag beetles are flying. Also, make sure any open water has an exit point, and if you see a dead-looking beetle in water, please take it out – they often revive!
Record your sightings Let PTES know where you’ve spotted a stag beetle via the Great Stag Hunt! Sightings are key to finding out where populations are thriving, in need of help, or non-existent.

Visit www.ptes.org/stagbeetles to find out more, including how to build a log pile or pyramid, ID guides so you know a stag when you see one, and to record your sightings.

Laura Bower, Conservation Officer at PTES, explains: “Sadly stag beetles are declining across Europe and they’re now extinct in some countries. In the southern parts of the UK they are doing much better but they still need our help. Gardens are very important habitats, as stag beetle larvae rely on decaying wood in contact with soil to feed on. Gardeners can help by retaining dead tree stumps or building a log pile. We hope to combat any further decline by asking the public to make their gardens more suitable for stag beetles.”

The public can also help by recording any stag beetle sightings in PTES’ annual Great Stag Hunt, which has been running for nearly 20 years. Last year saw over 6,000 submitted records, the highest number on record since the survey began in 1998. Simply visit www.ptes.org/gsh to tell PTES about your sightings, which will help PTES’ wider conservation strategy.

Additionally, PTES is co-funding the new European Stag Beetle Monitoring Network, launched this month. The network comprises 16 partner institutes and universities in 13 European countries, from Portugal and Sweden, to Italy and the UK. The project aims to assess population levels in Europe, monitoring the stag beetle’s full range. Volunteers are needed to carry out a simple survey. Participants can choose their own 500m transect. They just need to walk it 6 times during June and July and record any stag beetles seen. To find out more and to take part, please visit: www.stagbeetlemonitoring.org.

For more advice on how to make your garden stag beetle friendly, to identify a stag beetle, to find out what to do if you find a stag beetle or dig up stag beetle larvae, visit: www.ptes.org/stagbeetles.

If you want to support PTES’ ongoing conservation work, you can donate £3 by texting ‘PTES17 £3’ to 70070.